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Interview with Dr Joe Wenke

Joe WenkeWhile I was working on my review of his book, I was lucky enough to be able to ask Joe Wenke (pictured right) a few questions about it, including what he was trying to achieve and how he felt about the stories he was satirising. So here, as a sort of bonus track, are my questions and his answers.

Was there a particular thing that inspired you to write the book?

As I explain in “The Genesis of You Got to Be Kidding!” a piece that I originally wrote for the Huffington Post but which is now included as an afterword to the book, the way I got the idea for writing the book is kind of strange. I woke up one morning, and the first thing I thought of was that I would read the Bible and when I found something funny, I would write about it. I had never had that thought before, and I don’t know why I woke up thinking the Bible was funny, although it is hilarious. Read More…

33AD and All That

You may be familiar with Sellar and Yeatman’s wonderful work 1066 and All That, and if you aren’t you should go out and find a copy. It parodies a certain style of history and suggests that we might think we know history, but what we actually remember is a jumbled mishmash of contradictory stories, consisting of half-understood folk accounts of famous events stitched together with fragments of misremembered or invented details that seem to fit.

You may not be surprised to know that this is also true of our understanding of the Bible. Read More…

Familiarity breeds contempt, but the Bible still contains some beautiful sentiments

I love Monty Python. I used to watch it from an early age, laughing like a drain, and there was a time when I could recite pretty much any sketch on demand. I think I must own just about every Python DVD there is, but I don’t watch them very often these days, because I know it all. Just reading through the description of a show is usually enough, and it’s familiar enough without needing to watch it.

But sometimes I put one on anyway, and it usually surprises me. Just the smallest detail that I’d forgotten about can be incredibly arresting, all the more so when I thought I knew what was coming. It might be Conquistador Coffee, a Man Who Speaks in Anagrams or the Italian Lesson, but I can be caught out by a forgotten sketch or even a line. However much of a fan I am, I never quite know it all.

heart_cross_2That’s how I sometimes feel about the Bible. I’ve read it all, I’ve spent a lot of my life studying it, and I often feel like it’s got no more to offer me. But just occasionally, it still has the capacity to take my breath away. Read More…

Baby’s First Book of Genocide

So God told Joshua to go to Jericho, but there were some other people living there already, who God didn’t like so much, so He genocided them out of the way, which just shows how much He loves us, doesn’t it, children?

My boys have a fairly large collection of Bible stories in one form or another, all written for or targeted towards young children. These various books all tell the same handful of stories in their own way, and it’s astonishing to see just how many of those stories are fundamentally unpleasant – tales of murder, genocide, death and destruction. Here’s a sample of the most common stories: Read More…

Devil in the detail

Can you tell what it is yet?

Have you ever tried to zoom in on a digital picture to examine some detail or other? I did once, out of curiosity, and was astonished at the results. At normal size, the picture looked like it was as detailed as you could wish, but even at double magnification, you can clearly see pixellation. Zoom in much further, and it barely looks like a picture at all, more a collection of coloured blocks. Looking closely at the detail shows that the picture isn’t nearly as detailed and precise as you might have thought.

All of which is a very dodgy analogy to lead into another moan about religion. Read More…

The Rorschach Bible

Considering that everyone agrees on what the Bible contains (give or take a few disagreements around the margins), it’s amazing how much disagreement there is about how to interpret it, and the overall message of the book. That’s not just down to a small lunatic fringe – whole denominations have entirely different understandings of what passages mean and what to do about it, and are convinced that they’re right. Even literalists who would argue that every word is God’s unambiguous holy writ are capable of disagreeing with each other, and I’ve yet to meet one who treats Matthew 26:26 as the unambiguously literal text he/she claims the Bible is. Read More…

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